Google Glass Expo, Atlanta GA

One of the most intriguing things about technology is that it continuously evolves, and Google is one of those companies that has been very good about putting information right at our finger tips in an innovative way. In one of their latest innovations, they literally put the information right in front of our eyes. Google’s newest technology is a wearable called Glass.

In the easiest explanation, Glass is basically a screen attached to a set of frames that you wear on your face like glasses. These screen is inside a small prism which rests just above the line of vision of the wearer’s right eye. The explanation for the invention of Glass is to allow users to interact with both technology and people with their heads up, rather then looking down at their smartphones.

On February 8 & 9, 2014 Google Traveled down south to Atlanta GA as part of their Google Glass On the Road Expo. Since I don’t get to attend expensive conferences like CES or MWC, I jumped all over this opportunity when I learned there was no entrance fee. In fact, they allowed me to bring 1 guest, so I talked my wife into joining me. Hesitantly, she agreed. What can I say, she loves me.

The conference was nicely planned. As you walk in the door you are greeted with your choice of hot chocolate or cappuccino. The crowd is not over whelming, but there are stations of lines you must stand in to wait your turn. The first line is your typical waiting line to get to the sign in
table which you do on a Google Chrome Pixel laptop. Then you are waved to a group huddle. In this huddle, there are ladies with Glass on and holding Nexus 10 tablets. With the view of her Glass connected to the tablet, we get to see what she is seeing in her eye. She talks through the basic concept of Glass (which is to be more socially available with your head up) and through some basics of how to use Glass.

On the side of Glass is a small touchpad which is about 3 inches long by half inch wide. Touching and swiping on this touchpad is one way to physically interact with Glass. Tap once to activate. Swipe forward or backward with one finger to scroll. Swipe down once with one finger will go back. Swipe down once with to fingers will put Glass to sleep. Tapping once while in an app brings up the menu.

These interactions are rather simple. Any more than 3 or 4 would make it difficult to learn and remember what each gesture does. Along with these touchpad gestures you can also interact with Glass throught eh key phrase “OK Glass” followed by a command. Here is a list of commands currently supported by Glass.

Start by saying, “ok glass,”, and then:

Throughout the expo there were 4 booths setup to help you learn how to properly interact with Glass and also to help understand how Glass would be of a benefit to you in your day to day life. In the first booth, you learned basic usage of the commands above plus how to fit Glass properly and utilize the basic menu options such as “share”, “play”, “delete”, and scrolling.

Google has created a separate app store for Glass and they call those apps Glassware. However, this author can’t seem to find it even with the assistance of a Google search. Ah, the irony. But this Glassware is where the next 2 booths come into play. Booth 2 was showing you how Glass can translate words on signs or paper for you. “OK Glass, translate this” activates the camera to turn on then you aim the sign to be translated into the brackets you see on the screen. The solution is almost magical. What I expected was to see Glass type the translation on the screen, but what I received was far more innovative. Glass literally showed me the same sign in front of me but with the words written in English. The font was the same, the spacing was the same as well. It was literally the same sign, but written in English. The picture below is the before shot, or “to be” translated”, from German to English. Imagine the German words gone and replaced with the English words “Mountain trail enter at your own risk”.

Moving along to booth 3, you are introduced to Glass running Google Play Music. They even supplied some earbuds that connect to Glass utilizing the micro USB port. “OK Glass, play Radioactive”. It was the first song that came to mind. Glass used it’s own Google Play Music All Access music library to find the song I requested and began to play it. And on its own, it created a “radio” playlist of similar songs. Mine worked perfectly fine. My wife’s, on the other hand, didn’t want to stop playing Bon Jovi. The aggravation must have been obvious because two Googlers (that’s what people who work at Google call themselves) came over to assist. As luck would have it, they deemed that pair faulty and loaned her another pair. Ah, much better. This new pair followed every command to a tee.

The fourth booth was a Photo Booth. And it was exactly what it sounds like. There is no true interaction with Glass, no apps prepared to demonstrate. They simply gave you an opportunity to put on Glass in your choice of color and/or frames and stand in front of a camera to snap a picture. We look pretty good don’t we?
Are we ready?
I believe that Glass does have a place in today’s society. Like the iPhone in 2007, Glass is a little ahead of its time. Then, the iPhone was an overpriced piece of hardware used by elite and seen as more of a status symbol. Today, there is a smartphone in the hands of 56% of Americans. Today, Glass is an overpriced piece of hardware used by elite developers and seen as a status symbol, and sometime a nuisance. In order to get your hands on Glass today, you must complete a request form, Google will review it, and they’ll invite you to order (if they deem you worthy) for $1,500. 

Google calls it the Glass Explorer Program, and the elite group call themselves “explorers”. Those who want to be part of that group, but can’t or haven’t been invited, call them Glassholes. Glass has been compared to Robocop and Geordi La forge It’s been parodied by so many, even Saturday Night Live.

Glass with frames, such as the ones with lenses or sunglasses, look less awkward and might prove to be more socially acceptable. However, there have been scenarios that prove that society is not ready. Homeland Security has pulled an Explorer out of a movie theater. A California lady was given a traffic ticket for speeding AND wearing Glass while driving. Glass has already been banned from Caesars Palace. But none of these examples change Google’s stance on privacy.

There are a few Explorers out there who have documented their ideas for Glass use for the good of the community. One firefighter has a great idea to assist him and his coworkers the ability to instantly lookup information that will help them save lives. Another example is the NYPD using Glass on the job during patrol. But that last example seems like it could be easily taken too far.

In Closing
As I wrote the last few paragraphs on this article, I turned on my DVR and started watching a new show on CBS called Intelligence. The premise behind this show is that the United States has created a new anti-terrorist weapon. It’s a chip that allows constant internet/cellular/network connectivity, as long as the host who’s brain it is implanted in stays alive. This chip is implanted in a man’s brain named Gabriel Vaughn. It not only allows him to look up every answer to every question connected to the internet, but he “sees” the information in the air in front of his face.

Short from being able to access secret files, Glass is pretty much the same concept. And it seems, at face value, pretty cool!

So what do you think? Could Glass be the next big “thing”. Is society ready for in your face information?

Intelligence on CBS

Author’s note: We weren’t fortunate enough to see Larry Page or Sergey Brin but we did see one Googler that we didn’t recognize. This man with the beard. I only recognized him from the Ads for Glass with frames. If you can identify this man by name, please let me know down in the comments. I’m very curious.